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April 26, 2013     Post-Gazette
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April 26, 2013

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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 26, 2013 The Merry Month of May by Ally Di Censo  ' When I was younger, I fact that the many ancient Italian-American men and viewed the month of May as Romans holidays commemo- women organized unions, . .  ___ a time of transition, the rated the dead in the May -- participated in strikes and point when I could officially begin counting down to the last day of school. Teachers propped open windows to let warm breezes circulate the classroom, I could walk outside without a jacket, and Memorial Day weekend felt so close I could practi- cally smell the barbecue as soon as I flipped the calen- dar to May 1 st. I work in the education field so May still signifies the winding down of the academic year for me, but now I can also appreci- ate May as an exciting month in its own right. It is a month of blossoming flowers, trees shining with waxy green leaves, and bumble- bees humming around the bushes. I always thought these signs of flourishing spring seemed like magic, but it turns out that May really was considered a month of magic. In Italy and elsewhere, May remained synonymous, since ancient times, with supernatural beings and mystical occur- rences. After all, it is easy to picture magic in the air when spring life is blooming all around you. This connec- tion between May and magic inspired the celebrations of the holiday that begins the month, May Day. The day before May Day, April 30% is called Walpurgis Night in Europe. Its name derives from a mysterious Saint Walpurga, and its traditions stem from old pagan rites honoring the start of the summer season. During this time of transi- tion, witches, fairies and other paranormal entities are said to roam the land, giving Walpurgis Night a connection to Halloween, which falls six months later. In Scandinavia and north- ern Europe, Walpurgis Night is celebrated with picnics, bonfires and dressing up like witches. In Italy, the eve of May Day calls to mind the perhaps explaining why a popular superstition claims that it is bad luck to get mar- ried in May. May Day itself signals the beginning of summer and heralds a whole month devoted to woodland spirits. Some Europeans cel- ebrate May Day by decorat- ing their homes with green- ery and dancing around a May Pole festooned with gar- lands of ribbons and flowers, all acts said to promote fer- tility in crops. May Day is known as Calendimaggio in Italy and brims with a num- ber of folkloristic traditions. The Calendimaggio of Assisi, a lovely small medieval city, consists of parades of townspeople dancing and singing while dressed in elaborate Renaissance cos- tumes. The Calendimaggio of the town of Nogaredo, located in Italy's northern Trentino region, delves into the supernatural roots of May Day with a witchcraft theme. The May Days of Italy, there- fore, keep the magic of a fertile, blossoming season alive. May Day in Italy also com- prises of a public holiday: Festa del Lavoro, part of International Workers' Day. As the Italian version of Labor Day, businesses close and many families go on vacation, Visiting the beach, enjoying picnics, or touring famous Italian destinations. Others go to parades honor- ing the successes of the Italian labor movement or even partake in protests against injustices in the workforce. I like to think of this day as a chance to honor the inroads my Italian ancestors made in the area of industrial labor. I am cur- rently taking a course in American labor history, and I was so pleased and sur- prised to learn how fiercely Italian immigrants fought for safe, equitable work conditions in this country. rallied communities to- gether in order to provide support to injured workers and their families. We can thank the involvement of Italians and other immi- grant groups for reforms such as shorter work days and laws against child labor. Unfortunately, many unjust work conditions still persist in this country and around the world, but the action of Italian-American workers in the United States demon- strates how committed and caring individuals can make a difference in these mat- ters. In the midst of May magic and flowering spring life, this other side of May Day reminds us that we have magic inside us, able to bring love and change to the world. May, far from the simple transitional month I remem- ber from my childhood, is a time of magic and mystery. It honors the growth of Mother Earth, the start of a warm summer season, the presence of trees and flow- ers and life-affirming crops. Ancient European holidays like Walpurgis Night and Calendimaggio show us that there is so much mystery in the world, flitting and hiding in balmy spring nights. The Festa di Lavoro, which also falls on May i st, provides us with a chance to honor our hard-working Italian ances- tors and take advantage of the warm weather to band together as a peaceful, for- ward-thinking community. From witches to workers, flowers to medieval parades, let us enjoy the wonderful magic that surrounds us and move into May with a posi- tive attitudeT Ally Di Censo is a Graduate Student in History at the Uni- versity of Massachusetts Bos- ton. She appreciates any com- ments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at NEW LOCATION Author of Tess, North Ender, April Stern Riccio. Tess a Little Lady with Big Ideas This heartwarming children's book by April Stern Riccio tells the story of Tess, the author's mother, who suffered Alzhe- imer's at the end of her life. It is captivat- ing and charming, as well as helpful to any children who may have a family mem- ber suffering from the disease. It starts with Tess's younger years as she emigrated from Vienna to the United States and goes throughout her life in cute little snippets and through the times of forgetful- ness. It leaves the reader with a sweet nos- talgia and understanding that although Tess couldn't remember anymore, everybody else will always remember her. Illustrations in the book were made by Jocelyn Heart. For further information and to purchase a copy, please visit: With the purchase of this book you will also be contributing to those with Alzheimer's as 10 percent of the proceeds benefit the Alzheimer's Association, Massachusetts/ New Hampshire Chapter. BURLINGTON SONS OF ITALY WINE 5 CHEESE TASTING The Burlington Sons of Italy Lodge #2223 is hosting its 3 rd annual wine and cheese tasting event on Friday, April 26 th at the American Legion located at 162 Winn Street in Burlington. There is a $20 donation fee. The proceeds of this fundraising event will help finance an annual scholarship awarded to a deserving Burlington High School senior as well as the continued pro- motion and preservation of the Italian cul- ture and heritage with the community. In addition a rich variety of wines will be provided by the Liquor Cabinet on 31 Winn Street in Burlington and international cheeses provided by Roche Bros. Market located at 34 Cambridge Street in Burlington, there will be hors d'oeuvres to satisfy every taste. There will also be raffles. The Burlington Sons of Italy has a long history in Burlington in the support of many charities and support of homeless veterans. Your attendance at the event will help raise funds for the continued support of such causes. Is it Public Safety As a police officer who is soon to retire after more than 27 years on the job, I am a bit hesitant at the idea of license plate reading de- vices on dashboards of police cruisers. This technology is exploding rapidly and police departments are scanning countless license plates driv- ing past police cruisers for no other reason than by chance. I am concerned about privacy and possible misuses of this technology. As a crime fighting tool, this license recognition technol- ogy seems very worthwhile but is it not also a great rev- enue enhancer for local com- munities to use rather than raising taxes? Is that a good use of invading our privacy while motoring? I don't often side with the concerns of the American Civil Liberties Union but I am concerned, like the ACLU is, about databases recording the movements of people in the course of an ordinary day. As a baby boomer, I remember too well the required reading in school of books like George Orwell's "1984" as or a Cash Cow? well as "Brave New World." Sgt. Robert Griffin of the Chelsea Police Department says the State Legislature up on Beacon Hill should "trust law enforcement to do the right thing." Even President Reagan said, "Trust but verify." If used wisely, license scanners can be an effective public safety tool, but if it's main purpose is to write ci- tations to collect fines, is that a proper use of the tech- nology? I agree with State Rep. Jonathan Hecht who seems to put things into proper perspective, "Tech- nology is rapidly moving ahead in terms of our abil- ity to gather information about people. We need to have a conversation about how to balance legitimate uses ... with protecting people's legitimate expectation of privacy." Before moving too quickly, we need to assure citizens that we aren't being spied on to build databases. The job of the police is to serve and pro- tect but not necessarily scan and record. "'Cat's Meow'" Tag Sale Seeks Donations and Shoppers The Westfield Homeless Cat Project (WHCP) will be holding a gi- ant indoor sale May 244 through May 26 th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. This event will be held inside the Moose Lodge, 56 Washington Street, Westfield, MA and will take place rain or shine. Items ranging from clothing to tools and everything in between will be on sale at this bar- gain shopper's extravaganza. Since 2006 WHCP, a NO KILL cat and kitten rescue serving your local com-munity, has rescued and found Oscar is one of many adorable cats waiting for a loving home. new homes for over 4,000 cats and kittens. Anyone wishing to donate items that will save the lives of homeless cats and kittens can bring them to: 1124 East Mountain Road any time. For more details, email The Westfield Homeless Cat Project, a NO KILL rescue organization, has many beautiful cats ready for adoption just waiting for a second chance in life with a loving home. People interested in adopting are invited to come to our MAY adoption clinics on Saturdays from 1 i:00 am-3:00 pm and Thursdays from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm. Adoptions are held at 1124 East Mountain Road, Westfield, MA. Every effort will be made to find the purrfect match! For a listing of available adoptees, please log on to www. Share the Love -- Adopt a Homeless Cat Agency Since 1969 FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS AUTO * HOMEOWNERS * TENANTS COMMERCIAL Experience makes the difference 209 BROADWAY, REVERE, MA 02151 Tel. 781.284.1100 Fax 781.284.2200 Free Parking Adjacent to Building